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Pain Self-Management for Veterans: Development and Pilot Test of a Stage-Based Mobile-Optimized Intervention.

Johnson SS, Levesque DA, Broderick LE, Bailey DG, Kerns RD. Pain Self-Management for Veterans: Development and Pilot Test of a Stage-Based Mobile-Optimized Intervention. JMIR medical informatics. 2017 Oct 17; 5(4):e40.

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BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is a significant public health burden affecting more Americans than cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. Veterans are disproportionately affected by chronic pain. Among previously deployed soldiers and veterans, the prevalence of chronic pain is estimated between 44% and 60%. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this research was to develop and pilot-test Health eRide: Your Journey to Managing Pain, a mobile pain self-management program for chronic musculoskeletal pain for veterans. Based on the transtheoretical model of behavior change, the intervention is tailored to veterans' stage of change for adopting healthy strategies for pain self-management and their preferred strategies. It also addresses stress management and healthy sleep, two components of promising integrated treatments for veterans with pain and co-occurring conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. In addition, Health eRide leverages gaming principles, text messaging (short message service, SMS), and social networking to increase engagement and retention. METHODS: Pilot test participants were 69 veterans recruited in-person and by mail at a Veterans Health Administration facility, by community outreach, and by a Web-based survey company. Participants completed a mobile-delivered baseline assessment and Health eRide intervention session. During the next 30 days, they had access to a Personal Activity Center with additional stage-matched activities and information and had the option of receiving tailored text messages. Pre-post assessments, administered at baseline and the 30-day follow-up, included measures of pain, pain impact, use of pain self-management strategies, PTSD, and percentage in the Action or Maintenance stage for adopting pain self-management, managing stress, and practicing healthy sleep habits. Global impressions of change and program acceptability and usability were also assessed at follow-up. RESULTS: Among the 44 veterans who completed the 30-day post assessment, there were statistically significant pre-post reductions in pain (P < .001) and pain impact (P < .001); there was some reduction in symptoms of PTSD (P = .05). There were significant pre-post increases in the percentage of participants in the Action or Maintenance stage for adopting pain self-management (P = .01) and for managing stress (P < .001) but not for practicing healthy sleep habits (P = .11). The global impressions of change measure showed that a majority had experienced some level of improvement. User ratings of acceptability were quite high; ratings of usability fell slightly below the mean for digital programs. CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary data demonstrate the potential impact of the Health eRide program for chronic musculoskeletal pain for veterans. The results underscore that simultaneously addressing other behaviors may be a promising approach to managing pain and comorbid conditions. Additional formative research is required to complete development of the Health eRide program and to address areas of usability requiring improvement. A randomized trial with longer follow-up is needed to demonstrate the program's long-term effects on pain and pain self-management.

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